I think we have a issue with objectifying people.
Not just sexually. Not just women. Not just in the media. All of those are problems, to be sure, but I think objectification is a problem that goes way beyond all that.
A couple months ago, I was given a lesson on “networking.” I learned I was supposed to fish for connections, to groom people into becoming opportunities. I was supposed to be nice to people for the sole purpose of achieving my personal goals. It all seemed really fake and icky.
(Can I use the word icky as an adult? Is that allowed?)
I tried to express this to a friend, who laughed at me because dude, you network all-the-freaking-time. She was right, of course. I talk to people. I have a LinkedIn account, and I use it. I’m the queen of “let’s do coffee!” But there was still something weird about how the word “networking” was being used in professional-land.
Isn’t that, like, making friends with an ulterior motive? Can I just get to know people? And maybe some of them will do cool stuff, and then I can learn about that cool stuff and maybe get involved with it, if it makes sense? Is there a word for that?
Objectification means looking at people in terms of what they can do for you. For a service they can provide. For how they can help you reach your own goals.
So we “network.” We date. We care about people selectively–because they might be useful to us someday, because they fit into our personal narrative. We greet people with expectations. We ask “who can you be to me?” instead of asking “who are you?”
And when we do that, we miss each other. We miss each other on a human level, and it sucks.
We’re so busy trying to write our own story that we sometimes straight-up ignore people who might not fit into it, as though their stories don’t matter at all. We hold onto our agendas so tightly that we forget to hold each other. If someone isn’t a potential employer, or a potential partner, or someone we can get the notes for next class from…why bother with them at all?
There is something very inauthentic about that.
So here I am. Trying desperately, desperately to approach all people as people. Not opportunities. Not props in some story that I think I have control over.
Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hella hard. But I think it will be worth it.